Jerusalem: Amid ranging Israel-Palestine tensions, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has triggered a controversy by accusing the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem of giving Hitler the idea of exterminating Jews - a claim rejected by historians as "factually incorrect".
Netanyahu yesterday told the 37th Zionist Congress that Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler did not initially plan to exterminate the Jews and was convinced by Haj Amin al-Husseini to go for the "Final Solution", Nazi Germany's plan during World War II to systematically exterminate the Jewish population.
"Hitler didn't want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews," said Netanyahu.
"Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, 'If you expel them, they'll all come here.' 'So what should I do with them?' he asked.
"Al-Husseini said 'burn them," the Israeli Premier said.
The Israeli leader also claimed that the al-Husseini was sought during the Nuremberg trials but managed to evade them.
Nuremberg trials are a series of military tribunals, held by the Allied forces after World War II, which were most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of Nazi Germany who allegedly planned, carried out, or otherwise participated in The Holocaust and other war crimes.
Netanyahu's comment comes amid three weeks of Palestinian unrest and attacks. Over 40 Palestinians and eight Israelis have been killed in the violence.
Professor Dan Michman, a world-renowned expert who is the head of the Institute of Holocaust Research at Bar-Ilan University and Head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem, dismissed the claims saying Hitler did indeed meet the Mufti, but this occurred only after the Final Solution began.
Yad Vashem's (Holocaust Museum) chief historian, Professor Dina Porat, also contested Netanyahu's statement telling Ynet that they were "factually incorrect".
"You cannot say that it was the Mufti who gave Hitler the idea to kill or burn Jews. Their meeting occurred after a series of events that point to this," Porat said.
Israel's Defence Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that the Mufti supported Hitler but did not come up with the plan.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog called Netanyahu's remarks as "dangerous distortion of history" on his Facebook page.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) seized the opportunity to post a response on its Twitter page.
"Netanyahu hates Palestinians so much that he is willing to absolve Hitler for the murder of 6 million Jews," the account quoted Saeb Erekat, former chief negotiator in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, as saying.
It is not the first time that Netanyahu has made this claim. Son of a renowned historian himself, the Israeli Premier three years ago had told the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, that the mufti was "one of the leading architects of the Final Solution".